Sexuality and Gender

Marriage Law

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Author Amy K. Hall Published on 11/16/2012

Ryan T. Anderson (an author of the paper “What Is Marriage,” published in the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy) is one of the clearest writers on the issue of marriage that I know of, and I’m looking forward to the release of the book What Is Marriage next month.

Today, I came across this concise summary by Anderson of why we ought not to change our legal definition of marriage from the “conjugal” view to the “emotional bond” view:

Our marriage law should reflect the truth about what marriage is: a pre-political institution springing from human nature itself. Government should not redefine or recreate marriage, nor should it obscure the truth about what marriage is. Recognizing same-sex relationships as marriages would weaken marriage as a social institution. It would redefine marriage as essentially an emotional bond, thus rendering marital norms arbitrary and less intelligible. It would further de-link childbearing from marriage and deny, as a matter of law, the importance of a mother or a father in a child’s life. The outcomes associated with such absence are far from promising.

While this brief statement obviously doesn’t explain the full argument for each of these points, it’s helpful to have a list of the categories of arguments that need to be considered before we take the drastic measure of fundamentally changing marriage as a culture. To research more detail on each of these points, you can start by searching our website or scanning the ethics category on this blog. A few examples:

The Competing Views of Marriage
Inconsistent Same-Sex Marriage Advocates
Same-Sex Marriage Won’t Be Enough

This is the most difficult subject to discuss with people. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t have a friend or loved one who thinks changing the definition of marriage will be in his or her best interest, and nobody enjoys saying no to them. But there are serious consequences to tampering with a naturally occurring institution like marriage. The view that we can endlessly remake ourselves into whatever we like is false. Male and female are real categories. The differences—biological, emotional, psychological—are real. The need for both is real. The union of the two, complementary sexes is unique, with unique public consequences.

Civilization is much more fragile than we realize, and marriage—the male-female union that builds our society—is much more central to civilization than people understand. If we decide to thumb our nose at reality, reality will not be forgiving.